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 Post subject: Home Office: High tech border control success
PostPosted: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 16:22:15 +0000 

Joined: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 14:56:11 +0000
Posts: 1948
Nearly one million passengers have used the latest face scanning technology at Britain's airports, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson announced today.
He confirmed the figure while visiting the state-of-the-art facial recognition gates at Gatwick Airport's North Terminal. More than 950,000 passengers have used the secure self-service gates which scan biometric details and then check them against a range of watch lists before allowing the passengers to enter the country.

The facial recognition gates offer legitimate passengers the choice between queuing at traditional, staffed passport controls and using the self-service gates. More than 50,000 passengers have used the gates at Gatwick since their introduction in August 2009.

The gates take seconds to scan each passenger's face against the digital photo recorded in their passport. If there is a match, the e-passport gates open, to allow the traveller across the border. The gates are staffed by UK Border Agency officers who examine any passengers rejected by the gate, as well as making manual checks where appropriate.

The technology has already proved popular and successful at Birmingham, Manchester, Stansted, Cardiff and Bristol Airports.

Speaking on his visit, Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"Facial recognition technology speeds up the passage of legitimate travellers through immigration control, allowing UK Border Agency officers to focus on high risk travellers and goods. Our investment in the latest technology, which I have seen here today at Gatwick, means we continue to be at the forefront of border security.

"We have also introduced fingerprint visas, checking those wanting to enter the UK against immigration and crime databases, and compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals. In addition, the e-Borders system allows the UK Border Agency to count people in and out of the country and target terrorist suspects, criminals and would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK."

Facial recognition is just one of many technologies at use within Gatwick Airport to secure the border. Other technology includes Cyclamen, which detects radiation in cargo at the border and Braun Conpass, a full body scanner which enables the UK Border Agency to see if a passenger is carrying illegal weapons or drugs on their person.

Since January this year, technology used in customs checks at ports has helped in the seizure of illegal drugs worth over £157 million.

On his visit, the Home Secretary met frontline UK Border Agency staff, as well as detection dogs responsible for stopping smuggled goods such as drugs, cash and endangered species. Since January this year, UK border Agency officers working at UK Ports and Airports have seized in excess of 447 million smuggled cigarettes - representing a potential loss of more than £87 million in tax revenue and illegal drugs worth over £212 million.

Andy Flower, managing director for London Gatwick Airport, said:

"The introduction of the e-Passport system at London Gatwick Airport will provide a more efficient process for passengers entering the country

"The Home Office has enhanced the use of technology which will help speed people through immigration controls, whilst keeping our borders safe and secure."


1. The facial recognition gates can by used by all passengers from the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA) as long as they are aged over 18 and hold a biometric e-passport. These biometric e-passports have been issued since 2006.

2. Gatwick Airport handles over 34 million passengers a year.

3. Airports across the UK deal with over 100 million arriving passengers each year. More than 87 per cent of travellers to the UK are UK/EU/EEA citizens (source: Control of Immigration Statistics 2006).

4. The UK Border Agency was launched on 3 April 2008 by the Home Office, establishing a single force to protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make quick and fair decisions on asylum claims.

5. The UK Border Agency's ten-point delivery plan for 2009, which includes the roll-out of facial recognition gates, can be found on the following link. ... liveryplan

6. The UK Border Agency's strategy document A Strong New Force at the Border can be read at the following link. ... theborder/


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PostPosted: Sat, 06 Mar 2010 15:07:33 +0000 

Joined: Sat, 07 Apr 2007 10:29:05 +0000
Posts: 2855
NB: latest URL =

UKBA, in their 23 November 2009 press release, wrote:
Facial recognition is just one of many technologies at use within Gatwick Airport to secure the border.

That seems to be an asertion by UKBA that face recognition technology is reliable enough to enhance this country's security.

So does this statement, made by Andy Flower, Managing Director of Gatwick:
UKBA, in their 23 November 2009 press release, wrote:
"The Home Office has enhanced the use of technology which will help speed people through immigration controls, whilst keeping our borders safe and secure."

The press release refers to UKBA's 24 February 2009 10-point delivery plan for 2009. The plan comprises "10 wide-ranging pledges for 2009". Pledge #7 is, by August 2009, to have:
completed delivery of new facial recognition technology in 10 terminals, giving British passengers a faster, secure route through the border.

You get the point. Face recognition technology at airports increases security.

So what happens if you ask Sir David Normington KCB, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to prove it (16 April 2009)?

Answer, he kindly gets Brodie Clark, Head of the Border Force at UKBA, to write a letter.

Mr Clark has weighty, national, security responsibilities. And, from memory, he has 25,000 policemanlike staff at his disposal. He kindly writes to say (26 June 2009):
UKBA commenced testing our Automated Clearance System (ACS) at Manchester and Stansted in August and December last year, to assess the accuracy and reliability of the technology.

Wait a minute. "... testing ... assess the accuracy and reliability of the technology"? There was no mention of testing in the February 2009 press release. So presumably the technology passed its Manchester and Stansted tests and the technology is now known to be reliable.

You might think so, but apparently not. On 3 February 2010, Lin Homer, Chief Executive of UKBA, writes to say:
Lin Homer wrote:
UKBA is currently trialling the use of automated gates using facial recognition technology at 10 sites across the UK.

This technology is still being tested. The February 2009 10-point delivery plan and the November 2009 press release are both misleading in that they imply that the technology is already known to work. It clearly isn't.

Luckily, on 22 January 2010, a freedom of information request was submitted:
1. Would you please explain how the facial recognition facilities
of these "smart gates" increase security.

2. If you can't, then please explain how the Home Office can
continue to issue press releases which it knows to be misleading.

These requests are meant to be responded to in four weeks. It's been six weeks. So the response must by now have been made? No.


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